Monday 21 October 2019

Addison eager to deflect praise after 'stealing' belated man of the match award

Addison: Ulster getting ‘mentality right’. Photo: Sportsfile
Addison: Ulster getting ‘mentality right’. Photo: Sportsfile

Jonathan Bradley

For all the much-deserved praise that has come Will Addison's way since he swapped Sale for Ulster in the summer, one piece of official recognition had been eluding him.

The 26-year-old, who won his first three Irish caps last month, was arguably Ulster's best player in all of his first three games in a white jersey, but man of the match honours kept going elsewhere.

He was again brilliant in Friday's 25-24 win over Scarlets that has breathed new life into the side's Champions Cup quarter-final hopes.

He scored one of his side's four scores, helped create another for Jacob Stockdale and, thanks to a clever grubber, put Ulster in position to win an early penalty that by the final whistle proved crucial.

Yet, after finally being named as the pick of the bunch, Ulster's No 13 was somewhat sheepish.

"It means a lot but I wasn't backing myself to get it," he said. "Henry Speight had probably his best game in an Ulster shirt. He was great and we're really excited to see what he can do in the few weeks he has left.

"He's been a great addition. I was delighted for him to get the try, he was brilliant out there. And you look at Louis Ludik, coming back from injury. The list goes on.

"Eric O'Sullivan putting in 80 minutes at loosehead prop, you feel a bit guilty stealing the man of the match from someone like that."

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Indeed, Addison ended the game feeling indebted to his team-mates after admitting responsibility for a late Scarlets break that ended only after a fine try-saving tackle from Ludik and Speight.

"It's that fight-for-every-inch mentality," he said. "We never give up on a play. I'd like to apologise to the boys, I put them in a hole there so I was grateful for them.

"It's that mentality that we're building and that's why I love being part of this group."

For all the plaudits after Friday's win, Addison has stressed the need to quickly turn the page.

Every year in this competition's traditional back-to-back fixtures it seems that there is a team who produces a shock away from home only to falter against the same opposition back on their own patch.

Ulster have their own example. In 2012 they took a bonus-point win back from Northampton - their last five-point haul on the road in Europe against non-Italian opposition before Friday night - only to see their 13-game winning streak snapped a week later.

The side then led by Mark Anscombe still made the quarters that year but the result was the difference between hosting their last-eight tie and playing it on the road.

"We're an ambitious group, and the knockout stages are something that we've targeted," Addison said. "To come to one of the tougher places in Europe and come away with a bonus point is a testament to the group.

"There's a bit of elation there for sure but the great thing is we're looking to the next (game) already. It's a good sign of progress that we're not celebrating the win too much. It's one of our best wins to date but the eyes are on the next game and making sure we don't slip up at home."

For Scarlets, it will be interesting to see how they approach Friday's return fixture but coach Wayne Pivac insists they'll be going all out for revenge.

"There's pride at stake," said the man who will take over Wales after the World Cup. "They've hurt us at home, they've hurt our chances in this competition and we want to try and repay that debt.

"We'll have to look at the bodies and see who is available but we'll be going out there to win a game of rugby."

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